Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hitting the NaNo Mid-Point

Greetings Authors!

Our half-way point for NaNoWriMo approaches as does our first Writer's Block of this month. I've been busy hammering away at my book, as I'm sure all of you are!
Sadly, I'm also behind on my word count. I should be hitting the 21,000 mark today, but have just past the 13,000 mark. The optimist in me is whispering:

Just find a quiet place to drink coffee and hammer on the keyboard for 4 or 5 hours and you'll be OK...

The realist in me is stating:

Hey, you're typing every day. Be glad for it.

Glad I am. That's what it is all about folks! Find time, even if it isn't enough time; to WRITE. You can do it. That story is in you.

See everyone on Monday. I'll have tea and chocolate chip cookies!


Monday, October 31, 2016

Pre Launch NaNoWriMo 2016

Good day all!

I hope you have your trick-or-treat buckets all filled and ready to go! At midnight tonight, Halloween ends and NaNoWriMo begins. That's 1,667 words a day, or a goal of 2,000 words if you want to play it safe.

If you still have to sign up, its FREE! Just follow the link up on the right of this page and fill out the information. It's pretty quick and easy to do. My handle is the "Black n Blue Knight" and my region is USA :: Wisconsin :: Elsewhere. Do a friend request and we can partner up in NaNo land!

You can do it. It's already in your mind, all you have to do is record it on your screen or sheet.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Restructuring the Block?

Hello all!

It's been a hectic couple of weeks at my end. Sorry for the lack of blogging. HOWEVER, I have put a few things together for the next Writers Block! Below is a rough plan of how I'm going to run the Oct 24th Block:

OPENING: First-come-first-up order for discussions.
9-9:30 Discussions of current readings, writing questions, concerns, and future topics.
9:30 - 10 Divide the 30 minutes into blocks to discuss writing that has been submitted by the group members - OR - continue the 'Discussions' segment for late comers.
10-10:30 Divide the 30 minutes into blocks for turn-by-turn issues of the day for the group to work out.
10:30-11 This week's workshop project: For Oct 24th, we'll talk about focus on marketing tricks that actually might help out in focusing on the book!

11:00-?? Final thoughts, goal setting, and discussions
  • Discuss other writing groups: DeKalb Area Creative Writers, Sheboygan County Writers Club, Cedarburg Public Library
  • HOW TO: Log onto National Novel Writing Month and Writers Block at Niederkorn!
The final thing I have to add to today's post is a personal goal of my own: I'm going to begin writing out the NaNo book on a day to day basis, with an added wrinkle of challenge; each day will end with that part of the work getting processed through my editing program. My goal in this is to eliminate my need to have the editing program by finding my (worse) writing flaws and fixing those first.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Yesterday's W.B...

Great meet up!

This one is going to be short and sweet.

Yesterdays consensus was:

EVERY DAY we are to sit down and write something.

That is all. See you in two weeks!


Friday, September 9, 2016

Relationships versus the Ensemble in stories

Relationship stories...
...are set in prime motivation stories where the page turners are between two or three beings (buddy cops, romance, kid/horse/parent, forced road trip 'pals', three rebels fighting the Empire, etc.)

PRIMARY MOTIVE: to observe how the relationship develops.
Theme: how why two/three beings fit together:

The formula / pattern:
  • Denial in the potential of a relationship.
  • Show how the thorns poke each other (dislikes)
  • Reluctance to build a connection, but they have to!
  • Begin the 'weave' or 'braid the roses' as the pair / trio are forced to work together.
  • Exploration of the relationship.
  • The (end of) Act II disaster: where things break apart (reader will say "Oh NO!"
  • Acceptance of the relationship (The End).
        WARNING: Watch out for the 'Idiot Plot' (common to RomComs) where all the problems would be solved is the two main characters would simply talk to each other. This kind of issue to incredibly cliché and considered a non-issue by many readers. EARN the bumpiness. Have the ENTIRE book build to the disaster (such as the film While You Were Sleeping). Create 'of course they will do this' (such as Han Solo leaving the rebels at the end of Star Wars); Lea is devastated as she realizes the 'friendship' was only business; THEN embrace the 'whoo hoo!' moment is when Han has a change of heart and comes blazing back.

Page turners are built around the crisis moments that occur during the relationships. Fulfilling on the promises require tone, progress, and creating the RIGHT crisis for the moments of the relationships. Do the crisis's reinforce the story? Does support between the characters exist? How did the writer indicate that two characters belong together?
1. Do the characters complete each other?
2. Have gaps / holes been defined for the relationships to fill?
3. Love stories make the reader fall in love, friendship stories make the reader part of the buddy group (such as the first Lethal Weapon, ).
4. The reader wants the main characters to MAKE A BETTER CHOICE even though the character is going to make a less than perfect decision during a crisis moment.

Ensemble stories...
...are the group of folks working in the same direction on a problem.

PRIMARY MOTIVE: Get the 'band' together to stop the problem!

Even though it is a group, there is still a primary arc of one or two characters combating the heart of the problem. This will bookend the beginning / end of the story to give a sense of completion. Examples from film:
  • 2 sisters torn from each other reunite in the end (Frozen)
  • Tony Stark verses his narcissistic ethics of 'stepping on the wire' (Avengers)
  • 2 brothers save the orphanage (Blues Brothers)
  • A baker's life implodes and leaves her with nothing; she finds the strength though her friends to move ahead in life (Bridesmaids)
The ensemble is handled through dialogue. NO WORDS ARE WASTED.
A preface may be needed to set up the 'big bad' of the story, then Chapter 1 should focus on the main character at the heart of the problem (even if the main character does not realize it yet). Film example: Trinity verses the Agents (preface), Next scene: Neo waking up (Chapter 1). (The Matrix)
Bring each member in while defining who / what they are through individual scenes with the main character core of the 'gang'.
Have background dialogue bring feeling in for other main characters and seed feelings / reactions.
Character voices are important and each should be unique!
Don't marginalize characters; have each bring SOMETHING more than a 'one note'; keep everyone respectable! Have each character in the group be there for 'something'. Have secondary characters be 'fans' of specific main characters / ideals.

Multiply each scene's / prop's use throughout the group. In other words, each scene should link in multiple ways to 2+ scenes coming up (whenever possible).
Characters will engage on two levels: professional and personal.

Dialogue might be a caricature of REAL dialogue (the Avengers Movie, Oscar Wilde books, etc).

Characterization of an ensemble cast:
  • Large cast, but each with a little time 'up front'.
  • Every scene must serve multiple 'shows of character': The mindset, skill(s), and attachment to the problem.
  • Each character must have an arc to promote GROWTH or CHANGE. Create momentum for each character.
  • Who is the primary Protagonist in the group? What / who is the Antagonist against the group (either from the outside or from within)? Now show us why as the story progresses.
  • Think about the group tying up the Act III catharsis. How does each character arc lead to the group tie up during the catharsis? Let everyone turn to their specific strengths and support each other to do this in Act III.
  • Give the characters a sense of liberation from whatever was repressing them.
  • Give action moments of WHOAH! to break the fatigue to the non-stop action of the Act III catharsis point.
  • Pacing is important: Once you set the pace within your first couple of chapters, you must remain true to that pace though the book (or steadily / gently quicken it as the chapters progress).

Friday, September 2, 2016

Two Common "Planner Paths"

Good day all!

Today I'm going to talk about two common ways that writers who are 'planners' set up the overall structure of their stories. Hope it helps!

Disclaimer: Yep, there are other ways to structure your story, but these two seem to be the ones most talked about in the circles where I surf. Both also follow the assumed rising-action (stakes)-until-catharsis-then-ending method as well.

#1: The Three Act Play: This is the most common 'old fashioned' form of structure. It is SO familiar and ingrained into most readers minds that it provides a 'safe' and 'comfortable' read when done correctly and a sensation of 'messiness' when done incorrectly. When you are planning this kind of structure, the Heart of your story arc is in Act II. Your character introductions, themes, and setting are set up in Act I. Catharsis is hit at the beginning of Act III, then you tie it up and write The End.
   Due to our cross-media culture and concepts of 'properties' / 'franchises', most of today's three-act stories are beginning to blend into script writing rules (allowing for easier book-to-movie deals). With that in mind, the three-act structure will (more or less) come together as follows:
     1. The first sentence that opens the tale.
     2. Introduce the Protagonist, hint at the Problem, tease the elements of the Setting / Major Themes
     1. The Protagonist is launched into the Heart of the Problem (some kind of disaster strikes)
     2. Pinch #1: Remind the reader of the Problem, show the Protagonist failing / messing up when the Problem re-appears.
     3. Midpoint: The story flip-flops or changes in some way, with the Protagonist thinking they solved the Problem, but has only made things WORSE.
     4. Pinch #2: Deal with minor plot points, start hinting around at how to bring things together, even if the Protagonist cannot see them yet.
     5. Dark Night Of The Soul: All seems to be lost for the Protagonist until,,,
     1. The Protagonist deals with the Problem when everything comes together!
     2. The final battle / Catharsis
     3. Tying up the minor points (watch out for info dumps!)
     4. The final sentence that closes the tale.

That's about it for this type of planning! Try to keep the lions share of the story in Act II (keep it around 2/3rd to 3/4 of the total pages).

#2: 32 Scenes: This is a less-structured way of planning, allowing for more twists and turns and keeping the reader in a state of suspense and tension. Take care not to lose minor plot arcs and also try to keep from traveling too far off the plot (this will create distrust for the reader).
   Here's how it works: For dramas and biographies, plan on creating 30-32 scenes (or chapters). For action / thrillers, bump the number of scenes / chapters to 38-40; this keeps the scenes shorter and gives the books a faster pacing.
   Your first scene or Preface should introduce the Problem and/or the Protagonist. However that scene plays out will set the TONE for the ENTIRE BOOK. This creates trust between the story and the reader (be careful how you manipulate it). Early scenes should have a lot of unanswered questions and teasing of things to come.
   By the 4-6th scene, you should fall into a kind of "Because of X, then Y happens..." This rhythm should end each scene with a question / problem that is dealt with in the next 1-3 scenes.
   Catharsis should happen around 4-6 scenes from the end.
   The last scene should tie up everything and reflect the issue presented in the first scene, to give the reader a sense of completion.
    I tend to write the 32 Scenes down on a sheet of lined paper, with each line being the scene descriptor. When I am doing the novel-in-a-month thing, I try to work on expanding each (single) scene / line into 1700 -  2000 words. At the end of of the month, I've got my novel 'done'.

Have fun and write on!

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Plotting a stories ending is the light at the end of the tunnel. Writing the story to the point of reaching this 'light' may involve a number of twists and turns, but knowing where you are going as a writer generally allows a return to the plot arc if you find yourself lost. With that in mind, ask yourself this question:

How is the story I'm working on going to end for my protagonist?

I did a little digging and found some gems:

The knee-jerk answer is generally something like this: "For any story to have a satisfying ending, the protagonist of the story must end up in a better, happier state than he or she began the story in."

That's all well and good; it gives the reader a sweet sense of satisfaction after the trials and tribulations found on the road of the stories main arc.


Characters May Affect Change: Your character may change his situation, his environment, and thus put an end to the conflict.  This is the classic tale of the hero overcoming cancer, the hero putting down a mutiny, the cop catching the bad guy, the farm girl marrying the handsome landowner, and so on.

Character May Change as a Result of Conflict.  In this ending, our protagonist is permitted to lose, so long as he or she grows from it.  So the kid dies from cancer, but learns to grow and accept death in the process.  Or your hero walks the plank, loses his ship, but is better prepared for the signs next time a mutiny is about to break out.   In these cases, the growth of the character becomes more important than winning.  Even though the battle is lost, something is salvaged from the incident. The protagonist learns how to live.

Your Audience Can Be Changed by the Story. Perhaps each of you can dig back into your own lives and find events, books or movies that have dramatically affected you.

  • Why do more short stories than novels end on tragic notes?
  • Lazy writers not working on going for the 'fix'. True tragedy requires finesse and irony in a cautionary tale resolution (these are the 'sucker punch' stories).

  • How do you keep an ending from being predictable or boring?
  • Surprise is not always about what happens, but it can be as an unpredictable (but logical) emotion or an emotion far more powerful than expected.

  • How do you write a stand-alone ending with sequel potential?
  • Don't kill everybody.
    The world should be larger than the story.
    The villain's world is well populated.
    What type of series is this? Will each book have an immediate follow-up or will one or more generation have passed? Will each book have unique protagonists?

  • What are the best ways to avoid info dump endings? (the original Psycho's last 5 minutes)
  • As a writer, stay interested.
    Info dump becomes an appendix.
    Go back and resolve the info dump 'chunks' in earlier periods of the story.

  • Are there differences between writing endings for the first novel in a series and other novels in the series?
  • You've got more endings as you end more books in the series, so you've practiced and have become better at it. Keep an eye on the Mega-plot that covers the entire series. Wrap up everything from the beginning of the book, but not the 'question' set at the beginning of the first book (save that to end the final book).

  • How do you know which questions to leave unanswered?
  • Don't let the first book be boring. You can tie things up in a nice (broken) bow, but the bow will have to be untied and fixed in later books. Don't hold too much back for the sequels. The first book should answer questions DEEPLY, but then long-range issues become forefront.

  • What sort of attention do you give to your last lines?
  • How can you make sure the ending is working. Leave the reader with an image / phrase that ties up the plot / theme. Connect the two most important characters. Look back on the emotional resonations / beats and echo the pattern in the end. Humans love echoes (it makes us feel smart). Go back and create an opening sentence that reflects the closing sentence. The first line is part of the sales pitch to the reader to read the book... the last line should tell the reader 'thank you for reading'. Encapsulate the irony.

    Hope this helps!

    Monday, August 22, 2016

    The Last Writers Block of SUMMER

    Welllll, I suppose the one coming up on Sept 12 is still summer.
    But school will have started back up, and that's fall-ish enough for me!

    OK. Down to business.

    We had a cozy turn out today! Elizabeth brought in her outline for the memoir / auto-biography that she's constructing. It's looking promising at 35 chapters! She's into the sixth chapter of writing! Keep on writing Elizabeth!

    Diane spoke about her work on Real Simple's "Life Lessons Eassay Contest".

    We discussed books that is inspiring the way that we are forming our writing styles and tones:

    "The Last Chance but not the Last Song" by Renee Bondi, which is a structure that Elizabeth finds most appealing.

    The Harry Potter series, whose style resonates strongest with Arius' planned adventure series.

    "Catch 22" by Joseph Heller used a voice and style that Rose finds most inspiring.

    We also discussed one of the seminars that I took during my lost weekend at Gen Con. This one was "Convincing the Reader to Care", with Elizabeth Bear, Patrick Rothfuss, Kelly Armstrong, and Daryl Gregory. The highlights were:

    • Tools that get a reader to QUICKLY become invested:
    1. Within the first three pages: Show that the main character WANTS something (this is also your PLOT). Create associations between the character and the WANT, make them something that a reader can realistically connect to.
    2. Up front, give no more than THREE details about the WANTS to hook the reader. Tease the tidbits out after that, one at a time.
    3. As the story progresses, make the WANTS become an organic cycle of want-influence-change want-influence-etc. as the character grows.
    4. Obsticals to prevent success of gaining the WANTS.
    5. What are the stakes for failure? How do they grow as the story progresses?
    6. Also, from the onset of the story, present the character with questions / challenges one at a time. Ask question 1, then question 2, answer question 1, ask question 3, answer question 2, etc.
    • Least favorite character types:
    1. The 20-something-blank-slate who we'll learn about over the course of the whole story.
    2. Running from the bear. NOTE: Running toward something is OK. Outrunning 'the other guy' is OK. Keep the cause of the fear ambiguous.
    3. Avoid TOTAL Mary Sues and also ANTI-Mary Sues.
    • Mercutio syndrome is OK, but only if you treat the main character as the 'cookie' and the secondary (Mercutio) character as the 'chocolate chip'. Now is the most important time to show that your main character is the one with the competence and finds the most joy with the WANT. Watch out for losing interest as a writer. If you do, then drill DEEPER (explore wants / needs) of the main character and illustrate those.

    That's about it! I'll make it a point to blog about something random and writer-ish in a week or so!

    Write on!!!

    Monday, June 13, 2016


    OK, we talked about setting goals and making things happen by said goals. Here's the deadline list:

    1. Diane's goal: Finish the first section to prep for Paris section.

    2. Kathy's goal: E-version of Anatomy of a Book for publication.

    3. Dave's goal: Outline for July's Camp NaNoWriMo AND Run all of the Kite's Parcel novel through AutoCrit.

    4. Jen's goal: Write EVERY DAY.

    5. Rose's Goal: Try out the Dragon Dictation software and look into playback / editor help (Kathy?)

    We will report back to each other in two weeks (Monday 6/27) and see how we all came along!

    Also, the AutoCrit editing link is up at the right corner of the page.

    Have fun everyone!

    Saturday, June 11, 2016

    Hello SUMMER!

    It's June. Looks like it has officially stopped snowing in Wisconsin!

    Next Monday is Writer's Block at the Niederkorn Library. I'm planning on talking about a couple of writing things that are currently on my mind:

    1. Camp NaNo (in July).

    2. AutoCrit editing software and my passive writing voice.

    3. Structuring a story using the three-act play as a formula.

    As usual, I will bring coffee, tea, and snacks!


    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Blooming on the Block

    Hi everyone, we had a great meeting out at the Niederkorn today.

    The discussion meandered around for a bit, including (but not limited to) role-play gaming, Woodman's Food Market, and Hemingway's The Garden of Eden.

    Kathy brought in her self-published books that were designed to aid the artisan community (you can check out her stuff at Roland gave us an update on his upload, with a special focus on the mysteries of the IRS W-9 form. I talked about my Ars Magica publications and the writing -vs- payment side of things. Diane is compiling her work with Ms. Plaid's adventures in Paris. Marci gave us an update on a project that she is working to get her son on board with...

    Ultimately, it is a good day to reflect on successes and get excited about the future of our projects! Write on everyone.

    Next Writer's Block (on May 9th), Diane and I are planning on bringing in some chapters to READ in front of the group (gulp). Also, I might drag in an hour-long role-play scenario; in the hope that some of my published game book background comes into focus a little more!

    Feel free to stop in, grab some Java, tea, and a goody or two. Hopefully we can work with you on whatever Writer's Block that stands in your way.

    See you in two weeks!


    Monday, April 11, 2016

    Camp NaNo at the Block

    Welcome to the W.B. Diana!

    We worked on uploading Roland's book. We got it into the editor, but found some format issues. Roland is taking care of changing the 8 x 11 format into a 6 x 9 format and we should be good to go in a couple of weeks.

    We also had a round table discussion on our writing plans for this Summer. It appears that the rest of the group is either well into the writing process for a first draft, or into the edit mode for their work. Either way, we are heading into having some finished projects over the next 3-6 months if the muses and fates are feeling kind in 2016.

    The next Writers Block will be on Monday, April 25 starting at 9 a.m.
    Bring something to read or to others to read and critique!

    Last but not least; THANK YOU SMITH BROS for the coffee! This week's snack was Girl Scout cookies.


    Monday, March 28, 2016

    And Now We Will Be Returning To Our Program...

    We're baaack!

    Two weeks ago, we began setting up an account for Roland in CreateSpace. This week, we set up Roland's book information and got the ISBN number assigned. Our plan for the next Writer's Block is to finalize uploading Roland's book, titled God: Discovering Belief.

    As usual, we were treated to 3 liters of tasty Smith Bros coffee and noshed on some Irish Apple Crumble cake.

    Our talk was more of a decompression session, as many of us were coming down from the Easter weekend. However; Rose and Kathy are zipping along with their writing! More on that in a couple of weeks...

    Monday, January 25, 2016

    New Faces, New Places!

    Welcome to the Block, Mark and Rolland!

    As you can see, we had some new faces at the Writers Block this week. For a quick recap on who is doing what, here's the list (feel free to correct me if I'm off with any of this stuff):

    Dave: (New) Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy Novel - First draft complete. Editing for continuity.
    Kathy: Children's Book - Writing in progress.
    Jennifer: Short Story series - Writing in progress.
    .              Mystery Novel - First draft complete.
    Mark: WWII biography - Writing in progress.
    Rolland: Biblical - Complete, working through the self-publishing elements.
    Rose: Memoir - Writing in progress.

    We revolved the core of our discussions around the blending / ending point where research ends and focused, First Draft writing begins. Ultimately, this is a balance where the research has to progressively give over to the writing, although the writing will result in holes where further research is required.

    Next get-together, we'll try to bring in some writing samples for the group to go over.

    Friday, January 8, 2016

    Happy 2016!

    On Monday we had the first Writer's Block of the year. A light turn out, but still a good talk had by all.

    It turned into a day to clear the air of all of last year's challenges, while plotting our resolutions for this one. We discussed book formats; specifically the use of imagery in adult lit. The book Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast became the go-to example of illustrated memoirs. I also learned a great deal about how cafeterias work in a Catholic school.


    One of the other discussions was the variations in children's picture books. Wordless, words-in-picture, short descriptive sentences below the pix, and paragraphs on opposing pages were the primary formats that came to mind. Ultimately, the discussion boiled down to how the author wishes to use the imagery to convey the message on each page.

    Near the end of the session, I brought out my first two chapters and my sales pitches (tagline, elevator pitch, etc.) for everyone to check out. Thankfully, everyone was honest with the issues of this (very) rough draft. On a personal note, I feel that I'm pointed in the correct direction; now I just need to tweak a number of things!

    NOTE TO SELF: Bring in my Children's Lit course book for Kathy.

    NEXT WRITERS BLOCK: Jan 25 from 9-1. Bring something for everyone to read!

    I have two book-related resolutions on my list:
    1. Read a YA book each week that holds an element of my Erin Kite series.
    2. Get an agent to sell my stuff.

    Feel free to post any writing resolutions that come to mind!